Port Townsend High School resource officer focuses on prevention
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Port Townsend Police Officer Garin Williams, left, the Port Townsend High School's resource officer, meets with Vice Principal Patrick Kane on Friday. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — As schools nationwide debate the wisdom of installing armed guards to protect students against violence, the Port Townsend High School already has such a measure in place.

School Resource Officer Garin Williams, a member of the Port Townsend Police Department, has his own space in the high school's office, from which he provides training, protection and advice for the student body.

“It's great that Garin is here so the kids can connect with him,” said Vice Principal Patrick Kane, who works closely with Williams.

“They don't see him as a threat, and they can come to him with any issue.”

Williams — who dresses similar to the average teacher or parent — carries a gun.

“Yes, he's armed,” said Port Townsend Deputy Police Chief Mike Evans.

“All officers on duty always have a gun on their person.”

The gun is only to protect those threatened by violence, if that day ever comes.

Williams focuses on enforcement, counseling and education, hoping that intervention at a young age will change the path of any who might pursue criminal activity.

“I want the kids to look at police officers as a resource, not an enemy or someone who is going to get them in trouble,” Williams said.

Port Townsend Police Chief Conner Daily, who worked as a school resource officer shortly after he joined the force in the 1990s, recalls the position as one of the best jobs he ever had.

“Before I started this job, the only contact the kids had with a police officer is when [an officer] came to school and arrested them or one of their friends,” Daily said.

Williams, 42, joined the Port Townsend Police Department in 2007 and worked on patrol for three years before becoming school resource officer in 2010.

Now, he is asked to work patrol when another officer is on leave or sick, but his job is to be in or around his office at the high school every school day from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., aside from the few hours a week he spends at Blue Heron Middle School.

For instance, as part of his educational role, Williams will visit Blue Heron after the holiday break to conduct a tsunami and earthquake drill to prepare kids for these potential disasters.

His salary is paid by the city, while in-service training costs are picked up by the school district.

Discipline for violations on campus are handled by the school and parents, and cases are transferred to police only if needed.

Some cases of marijuana possession are handled within the school disciplinary structure and dealt with by the police at Williams' discretion.

As in the outside world, a student caught dealing drugs, rather than just possessing them, would face stiffer penalties and criminal charges.

Williams enforcement isn't affected by the recent legalization of marijuana as its use is prohibited by those younger 21.

National reports of school shootings hasn't changed Williams' behavior — but he does pay closer attention in some cases.

“I'm always on alert because you never know what's going to happen,” he said.

“I haven't really kicked things up a notch but both [Kane] and I pay closer attention when certain things are discussed.”

Williams said his presence acts as a deterrent, one that cannot be quantified.

“There is no hard data about what I've prevented, but I think I'm making a difference,” Williams said.

“I talk to the kids and tell them how life works and how to avoid things that will injure them.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 22. 2013 7:58PM
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